In what can only be described as a disappointing draw for Orlando City, there were still some positives to be taken from Sunday night's game.
Orlando Head Coach Adrian Heath persisted with his favored 4-2-3-1 formation, and in some ways, it worked out. Cristian Higuita and Servando Carrasco have formed a formidable partnership in defensive midfield with the former having a fantastic passing game. The Colombian has done well to be the link between the two lines of midfield in this attacking formation, while Carrasco serves as the destroyer. The only criticism one can level at Higuita is his rashness going into a challenge. At times, he tends to give away unnecessary fouls that put the Orlando back line under pressure.
This brings me to my next point, the defense.
The defensive organization is something that will continue to eclipse anything good that Orlando City does in the offensive third. In both open play and set-piece situations, Orlando City seems to be missing someone that dictates and organizes the defense so that everyone on the team is communicating and making sure no one is left unmarked.
This lack of formational and structural discipline from not having a leader at the back is the cause of the first goal, and also the culprit for the concession of multiple chances such as this one. The chance shown below was created by a San Jose player having a nice touch past one defender, which then somehow dissembled and allowed for almost six City players to be within about five yards of one another. This should never happen.
However, the formational indiscipline doesn't stop there.
Though Orlando did well to score two goals, the lack of shape at times probably held the Lions back from creating a few more decent chances from open play. If the two midfielders on the outside of the "3" in the 4-2-3-1 keep their width more consistently, then they can expose teams trying to overload certain areas.
Kevin Molino was excellent in Saturday night's game as the No. 10, slipping in and out of the hole and finding key passes to Cyle Larin and other forward runners throughout the whole match. If a mobile No. 10 like Molino wants to shift around and cause issues, then that's acceptable, but the advantage of the formation is dispelled when others are getting too close. Keeping the shape and, more importantly, the width can help expose teams.
But away from the negatives and onto the positives. As stated before, Molino was excellent and should be looked toward to be the future of City's attack regarding building around certain players.
Another standout was Luke Boden. Boden's cultured left foot and IQ allowed him to utilize another advantage of Heath's favorite formation. Boden often cautiously made his way up the left flank and sent in some fantastic balls for the attackers to try and capitalize on. City can look upon this deployment of the Englishman as a positive since Kevin Alston's defensive stature allows him to be the perfect "tuck" fullback, transforming to a three back when the former bombs forward.
Larin was also very positive in the second half, but one tends to wonder if a physical presence like him would benefit from someone to work off of up top. When Julio Baptista came on and slipped into the position Molino was occupying previously; it seemed to affect Molino negatively. The best position for the Trinidadian is central, so that he can distribute to both sides and isn't isolated on the flank, though he still created chances and did well there. A system change to a more defensively solid 4-4-2 might have been the better option instead of bringing on Antonio Nocerino, who did next to nothing. Baptista and Larin could've worked off of each other, and the formation would've combated the overload of San Jose players up top; the cause of the second goal.
If Orlando works on their defensive organization and holds shape better, the Lions can build on a team that is already good. This team finds goals no matter what; it's simply a matter of fixing the little issues and perhaps being a bit more cognizant of a formation other than the 4-2-3-1.